What I might be doing if I had the time…

I might write my book. ūüôā

I might go visit my Sarah friend and take her to go and sit at Jenna’s grave for a while. (It’s been too long.)

I might take some piano lessons.

I might take¬†some friends bra shopping. I read this website¬†and now I¬†am mildly obsessed about¬†helping all the sad¬†women in the world who do not wear the right size bra. ūüôā I am tickled pink because I¬†discovered a local department store that actually sells the imported British bras that come in¬†my size¬†(which isn’t manufactured in the US). I had previously only been able to obtain them at a fair price through UK Ebay.

I might tackle the scary place that is my boys’ bedroom, and throw away tons of useless, broken, unplayed with toys.

I might revamp our sunroom. (It is scarier than the boys’ room.)

I might adopt a little Haitian orphan girl. There are still so many little girly things in this house.

I DID manage to find time to do this over the Christmas break:

A custom made lampshade for my Mother in Law, featuring pictures of her 6 grandkids.

The base is slightly broken so the lampshade¬†doesn’t sit¬†straight. I only used it for the purpose of taking the picture.

I also got into a knitting craze and knit several scarves for friends. I am also teaching my bible girls to teach at school. It is turning out to be a wonderful, special bonding time for all of us. (I have even had some 8th grade boys begging me to teach them to knit.) Who knew that teaching a bunch of teens to knit could lead to so much fellowship and fun?

A scarf I knit with sundry left over balls of yarn:

The strips of green fun fur remind me of a fuzzy worm. ūüôā

Of course if money wasn’t an option, my current mood would take me to South Africa for a visit to all my peeps there. I would sneak in a performance of the Soweto Gospel Choir and grab me some real African harmonies while I was there. My African people can sing!

What would you do if money and time wasn’t a consideration?

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Stocking s(t)uffer

To¬†Jenna…

So, Christmas is officially over and I haven’t written you a note to stuff¬†into your¬†stocking¬†yet. Yes, I had a run-around day on Christmas eve. Yes, I fell into bed, exhausted,¬†at 4am. It’s been a happy, blessed, busy time. And you were missed, sweetie pie.

But something in me balked at sitting down and writing you that note. Last year I was driven to do it. This year, I just didn’t want to be reminded that it is all I have to give you this Christmas, and many more to follow.

I don’t think my house has ever looked¬†as good, or smelled¬†as lovely as it does this year. The Christmas tree is gorgeous. The boys and I lovingly decorated it with the same ornaments that you helped me hang so industriously¬†on your last Christmas with us. I remember your pudgy toddler hands, and your intense concentration as you hung them precariously low, all in one spot at your own eye level. I had to space them out a bit later on. ūüôā

The tree now sports some ornaments you never knew Рlittle mementoes of you, sent in by friends. Tom, the cat. Ballet Slippers. A handmade ornament with a robin on it. A treasured dragonfly embossed ornament that came from a mommy whose little girl left her in much the same way you left us. I pointed them all out to granny and she stood before that beautiful, fragrant tree with tears in her eyes. You still light up our world, muffiny.

I found something at Walgreens and had to buy it. It is¬†not the prettiest ornament, but its words¬†grabbed me. It says: A daughter is yesterday’s dream, today’s delight, and tomorrow’s promise. ¬†

It is the promise part I like. Somewhere in my tomorrows, you are waiting. The promise is sure. The same Jesus whose light shines so brightly in all my darkness, whose light is everywhere this Christmas season, adorning houses and making this christmas tree sparkle, is keeping you safe with him until that day. There is hope, and there is plenteous redemption. (Psalm130)

But sometimes that wait seems so long and notes like these are just a bummer to write.

Still, I have decided to stuff a little love letter to you in your stocking every year, and I like to think that one day, years from now, perhaps you and I can sit down and read them together.

Words elude me tonight, they have been doing it a lot lately.¬† I’d love to write you something eloquent and poetic. But all I can say to you my little precious girly, is that I miss you, I love you, and you will always be in my heart.

Until that day,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Your mommy.

Out of the cocoon

I don’t know how to start my blog posts anymore! I’ve been absent so long, it feels like I need to explain, or play catch up or something.

I really should write more, because there are moments in my day that I want to capture, that will be forgotten if I don’t write them down. I always wish I had written about Jenna more, recorded her sweet sayings and her milestones. AH well…

The boys provide lots of amusement around here. My middle son learned that he could burp on demand recently. So yesterday, while we were alone at church, waiting for hubby to print out the song sheets for the worship service (he led worship last night), the boys enjoyed hearing themselves sing over the microphones. Middle son, of course, had to try out his burping technique – and belched out a hillarious rendition of “Jesus loves me.”

I attempted some beat boxing. I had this misguided impression that I would actually be quite good at it. Alas, it was not the case. I sounded scary.

Teaching has been hard this year – or at least, harder than it seemed last year. I think there are many factors that play into that. I have added an extra (high-maintenance) class, my son is in three of my classes and it definitely affects the classroom dynamic, plus I do not have the luxury of having a weekly cleaning lady this year. (Last year a sweet friend paid for me to have one.) On Thursdays and Fridays the boys are home and supposed to do their home school work, but they manage to drag it out over the whole weekend. All of the above make me feel like I am not making ends meet, time wise.

Today, the boys and the hubby were out for a good chunk of time to get haircuts, and I could clean/de-clutter to my heart’s content, whilst playing my music as loud as I wanted. It was bliss. But I am disappointed by how much I actually got done, and how much work this house still needs. It seems an impossibility to get this place in pristine order. (Nevermind keeping it that way.)

I have been quite emotional lately and missing Jenna acutely. I was trying to figure out why when I realised: there doesn’t have to be a reason why. I don’t always need to explain why I am missing her more at some times than at other times. The fact that Jenna isn’t here with us is reason enough for any missing that I feel. That I can carry on living and laughing and loving life at other times is pure grace.

I was telling a friend at church (who is grieving the loss of her younger sister and her bestest friend) that now, 21 months later, it often feels MORE painful, and the realization that Jenna was here once and now she is gone sometimes hits me like a gut punch. It seemed at first, that Jenna was all I could think about, and I was constantly clinging to God and trying to make sense of what had happened. I was wrapped in a cocoon of grace then and I was full of hope that everything would eventually work out beautifully, to the glory of God. Now there are so many other things that crowd in, that sometimes thoughts of Jenna catch me unprepared, outside of that safe place that I was wrapped in at first. Sometimes those thoughts take my breath away.

My friend responded and compared this new place that I am in, to a cocoon unraveling. We can’t stay wrapped up in our protective cocoons forever, at some point the covers need to be stripped away so that Jesus can continue to do a fresh work in our hearts. Hopefully when I finally come out of that cocoon it will be as a butterfly and not some ugly moth. LOL.

I am off now, to go and take a long, hot, soak in the bath. I’ve given up on cleaning the house for the time being. Part of me wishes that I could just skip church tomorrow and get things done around here for a change! I know that I never regret going to church though, it is always refreshing to worship God with my church family.

Wouldn’t a three day weekend be nice?

Valeria.

Our dear, sweet friends from Bolivia are here again for a visit. Pablo lived in our city years ago, going to Bible School day and night, and eventually returned to Bolivia to become pastor and teacher at our bible school there. God has blessed the work there, and knitted our hearts to those of the Bolivian people, even those whom we have not met yet. Pablo is like family. His sister, Carolina, is a dear friend. His wife, Pamela, is a sweetheart. I have been looking forward all week to their arrival and hugged them with joy as soon as I spotted them this evening at church.

(I must admit that part of my anticipation in seeing them again, has to do with having Pablo play piano on the worship team. Man, that guy is gifted. I never fail to be inspired to get off my lazy behind and practise playing piano when he is around. He is not only talented, he is a worshipper – and his music is pure ministry to God’s heart. I long to be able to play like that.)

When Pablo lived here, he was a twenty-something bachelor. Now he is married, and father to the two cutest little dark-eyed, chubby-cheeked, curly-haired children.
I met his eldest, Valeria, two years ago when she was a contented little baby a few months short of her first birthday. Jenna had fussed over her with all the maternal feelings that a three year old could muster. I can still see her bending over Valeria’s carseat, “talking to the baby”, whilst stroking her cheek. (Pamela left some comments on the Jenna page, you can read what she said about how Jenna loved on Valeria at comment number 9.)

Now Valeria is a gorgeous little madam, almost three, who has her mommy and her daddy wrapped around her little finger.

I am in a quandry as to how to handle Valeria. I can see that my hubby is too. In one sense, we want to stare at her and lap up all her toddler sweetness, because we are missing the unique little mannerisms and movements that so many girly-girls around the age of three have in common. Did you know that little girls have a similar way of tilting their heads when they are intent on charming you, they have this singular little bounce when they run, their hands are often poised in quite the same way? I try not to stare at toddlers, but sometimes I can’t help it (hubby says sometimes he wonders if people mistake him for a pervert when he cannot help but stare). I see Jenna in girly toddlers, so often.

I saw Jenna in the body language of Valeria this evening, as she tried to coerce her daddy into going somewhere with her. And later, as she threw a temper tantrum. ūüôā

To stare or not to stare. At some point, staring too much either alerts people around me of my longing or causes feelings to rise to the surface that are best controlled in public, so I have this very ambivalent response. Stare, or ignore. And whichever response I choose, I cannot help but be painfully AWARE.

Oooohhhh. So I sit here tonight, having been reminded by another sweet girly girl, of the little one that isn’t here with us right now. And as the tears roll down my cheeks, I post this little lament. I miss Jenna.

I reach for Jenna’s picture and stare at that sweet little smile, look into those expressive eyes framed by those gorgeous eyebrows. I smile into them and as I always do, I remember that she is very much alive still, just not in a place where I can touch her and draw her close. So I do the next best thing.

I take her picture, and cradle it close against my heart.

Stepping up and stepping out

I am LOVING the fall weather that unexpectedly dropped in on our corner of the US. It is my favorite time of the year as far as weather is concerned, with Spring running a close second. It seems that I can never quite enjoy spring to its fullest though. It coincides with one of the busiest seasons if you are a school teacher. Plus, things always seem to thwart my spring enjoyment. Like the year we spent almost our entire spring (it is short here) cooped up in a hotel thanks to a house fire. Or the year we moved during spring and I was too busy packing and unpacking to enjoy the outdoors. Or last year, when the sky seemed wide and empty and time seemed to last forever and the birdsong reminded me too painfully that Jenna was gone.

Yup, I like Fall. I love the Thanksgiving Holidays, and the way that the weather slowly turns colder until we can make cozy fires in the fireplace and burn spiced cider fragranced candles. My students at school love it too – on Wednesday I taught two of my four classes outside.

I am enjoying my classes this year. I am blessed to have my own classroom – it makes a huge difference, and I feel slightly more organised as a result. I say ‘slightly’, because I still don’t feel organised enough (I wonder if I ever will?). I took on an extra subject this year – Earth Science for sixth grade, and together with helping the middle boy adjust to being at our school for the first time, I have my hands full. I only feel now, after 6 weeks, that I am starting to get my stride.

My journalism class is wonderful. I have half the students I had last semester, and it is so much more manageable and so much less frenetic. We have two weeks to go until publication date, and almost all the articles are ready for layout! That is a first. Hubby says he can install Publisher on my school computers for me – so, instead of me going nutso once a month, I can teach the students to do the job themselves! Now I just need to get the man in my classroom and to work on those machines…

Otherwise…I’m doing fine. Challenged to ‘step it up’ where responsibility is concerned. I was talking to God the other day about how tired I was of going around the same old mountains again and again and again, and he reminded me in his tender, full-of-mercy way that everything I want requires some kind of sacrifice from me. I need to remind myself that the things I long for so much are there for the taking, provided I am willing to invest the time and the effort required. Do I want more of Jesus? I don’t need to try harder, I need to make time for his presence more. Do I want growth in my marriage? I don’t need to resign myself to the status quo, I need to put down my own needs and ask Jesus to help me to minister to the hubby better. Do I want to be a worship leader? I need to pick up my guitar more. (Duh)

OK, so it is so simple, but I often tend to think that everything in life should just happen automatically! (Double duh)

When I look at my life I see so much wasted time and opportunities. But there is a grace stirring in me, and I know Jesus can redeem even my failures and use them for his glory. Sooo…here’s me, stepping out…

All I want

I have had a rough week. Or two. I cannot quite put my finger on one single reason why, but I reckon it has something to do with back-to-school craziness and adjusting to teaching again. There are lots of changes around here but I don’t feel like writing about them now. They are nothing serious, but it always takes time to get used to doing new things in new ways. Add a good dose of the old hormones to the mix, and you get a pretty emotional Sumi.

I am not typically given to mood swings, but my emotions have certainly been running the gamut here. Loneliness. Anger. Melancholy. Frustration. Depression. Missing Jenna. Being weepy for no discernable reason at all. I do think that as I approach my mid forties those hormones are stepping up a bit. So I am not taking my current state of mind seriously. I realise it is transcient and I will be myself again very soon.

I found it hard to enter into worship at church tonight though. I have made several faux pas this week, blurted out something that I shouldn’t have, lost my cool with a rude driver in a really over-the-top way (with my kids as witnesses), nursed anger towards my hubby for not being here more, struggled to find my stride in a new class I am teaching at school. My house is a wreck, our family is in desperate need for a better routine, I am not getting around to everything that demands my time. To top it all, I have not been yoked with Jesus and drawing on my relationship with God to see me through. I have been (moodily) going it alone. And failing desperately.

I arrived too late at church to secure my regular spot on the worship team. We have been missing a microphone ever since a concert we had at the church two weeks ago, and there are only three mics for four singers. Until we can get the situation rectified, the one who arrives last misses out, or has to share a mic with another singer. I decided not to share tonight, but to worship off the stage where I could fling my arms out wide and sing freely without the constraints of being a part of the team.

As always, I could feel Jesus tugging at my heart and wooing me to enter into that place of intimate worship with him. But I felt too sullied, too broken, too useless to give in to that tender call. What could Jesus possibly want from miserable old me? Someone who keeps failing at the same old things, over and over and over again? I told him such. I told him that all I could give him was this pitifully weak and unfaithful heart of mine.

He whispered back:

It’s all I want.

Things.

You’d think by now that we would be getting used to the change that came into our lives so abruptly on February 17, 2008. For the most part, we look like any normal family doing normal things. (Although, perhaps calling us normal looking might be a bit of a stretch. We are a peculiar lot. ūüôā )

Still. Life will never quite be as ‘normal’ and simple as it was before. Sometimes it gets downright complicated.

I have been bitten by the redecorating bug, and am in the process of reorganising the tv room, which formerly doubled up as Jenna’s playroom. I want to turn the room into a cozy den for hubby and I, or for the kids and their friends, and since color is the thing that speaks to me most when I am decorating, I have wanted to move everything that ‘doesn’t go’ anymore, out.

I am grateful to be able to pass Jenna’s big pink dollhouse on to her bestest friend Joseph’s little sister. I didn’t want to pass it on to a stranger. I am really OK with letting it go, though it took hubby a little longer to agree.

It is the colorful plastic drawers that I moved into the walk-in closet in that room that bites. It would be so fine if I could reorganise the stuff in those drawers to make space for the the pairless socks that I stubbornly hold onto, or the growing pile of sheet music that hubby drags home after each church service. It could hold a sizeable chunk of all those other little odds and ends that spill out of their baskets or off the shelves and cry out for better organisation.

It bites, it really does. I am not ready to empty the contents of those drawers, or even to move the contents into another space. They contain the teaset and slice-a-rific sets we had given Jenna for her last Christmas with us, the dolls that went with her dollhouse, a miniature princess castle that enamoured her the moment she laid eyes on it. I pulled open one drawer, and at the very top was a teacup she had played with a few short days before she left this house for good, the inside still encrusted with sugar.

Untouched.

I sat on the floor and sobbed. Part of me was angry because if Jenna were here with us I would have no qualms about moving her stuff around. But she is not, and I am so torn between wanting to keep everything the way it was and moving on. Seeing her things spark memories, and I don’t want them to fade. If Jenna were here her things would mean little to me, but now they are all I have.

I am letting go, little by little. There is a bag of soft toys downstairs that I will be taking to Goodwill soon, but I arranged them all together in groups and took their picture before dumping them in the bag. For memories’ sake.

Sigh.

I will be taking pictures of her teaset and dolls and castle one day. But right now I am not quite ready. And part of me wishes that I was.